Poems (Tennyson, 1843)/Volume 1/A Dream of Fair Women
A DREAM OF FAIR WOMEN.
"The Legend of Good Women," long ago
Sung by the morning star of song, who made
His music heard below;
Preluded those melodious bursts, that fill
The spacious times of great Elizabeth
With sounds that echo still.
Held me above the subject, as strong gales
Hold swollen clouds from raining, though my heart,
Brimful of those wild tales,
I saw, wherever light illumineth,
Beauty and anguish walking hand in hand
The downward slope to death.
Peopled the hollow dark, like burning stars,
And I heard sounds of insult, shame, and wrong,
And trumpets blown for wars;
And I saw crowds in column'd sanctuaries;
And forms that pass'd at windows and on roofs
Of marble palaces;
Dislodging pinnacle and parapet
Upon the tortoise creeping to the wall;
Lances in ambush set;
That run before the fluttering tongues of fire;
White surf wind-scattered over sails and masts,
And ever climbing higher;
Scaffolds, still sheets of water, divers woes,
Ranges of glimmering vaults with iron grates,
And hush'd seraglios.
Bluster the winds and tides the self-same way,
Crisp foam-flakes scud along the level sand,
Torn from the fringe of spray.
Resolved on noble things, and strove to speak,
As when a great thought strikes along the brain,
And flushes all the check.
A cavalier from off his saddle-bow,
That bore a lady from a leaguer'd town;
And then, I know not how,
Stream'd onward, lost their edges, and did creep
Roll'd on each other, rounded, smooth'd, and brought
Into the gulfs of sleep.
In an old wood: fresh-wash'd in coolest dew,
The maiden splendours of the morning star
Shook in the stedfast blue.
Upon the dusky brushwood underneath
Their broad curved branches, fledged with clearest green,
New from its silken sheath.
And with dead lips smiled at the twilight plain,
Half-fall'n across the threshold of the sun,
Never to rise again.
Not any song of bird or sound of rill:
Gross darkness of the inner sepulchre
Is not so deadly still
Their humid arms festooning tree to tree,
And at the root thro' lush green grasses burn'd
The red anemone.
The tearful glimmer of the languid dawn
On those long, rank, dark wood-walks drench'd in dew,
Leading from lawn to lawn.
Pour'd back into my empty soul and frame
The times when I remember to have been
Joyful and free from blame.
Thrill'd thro' mine ears in that unblissful clime:
"Pass freely thro'! the wood is all thine own,
Until the end of time."
Stiller than chisell'd marble, standing there;
A daughter of the gods, divinely tall,
And most divinely fair.
Froze my swift speech; she turning on my face
The star-like sorrows of immortal eyes,
Spoke slowly in her place.
No one can be more wise than destiny.
Many drew swords and died. Where'er I came
I brought calamity."
Myself for such a face had boldly died,"
I answer'd free, and turning I appeal'd
To one that stood beside.
To her full height her stately stature draws;
"My youth," she said, "was blasted with a curse:
This woman was the cause.
Which yet to name my spirit loathes and fears:
My father held his hand upon his face;
I, blinded with my tears,
As in a dream. Dimly I could descry
The stern black-bearded kings with wolfish eyes,
Waiting to see me die.
The temples and the people and the shore;
One drew a sharp knife thro' my tender throat
Slowly,—and nothing more."
"I would the white cold heavy-plunging foam,
Whirl'd by the wind, had roll'd me deep below,
Then when I left my home."
As thunder-drops fall on a sleeping sea:
Sudden I heard a voice that cried, "Come here,
That I may look on thee."
One sitting on a crimson scarf unroll'd;
A queen, with swarthy cheeks and bold black eyes,
Brow-bound with burning gold.
"I govern'd men by change, and so I sway'd
All moods. 'Tis long since I have seen a man.
Once, like the moon, I made
According to my humour ebb and flow.
I have no men to govern in this wood:
That makes my only woe.
One will; nor tame and tutor with mine eye
That dull cold-blooded Cæsar. Prythee, friend,
Where is Mark Antony?
On Fortune's neck: we sat as God by God:
The Nilus would have risen before his time
And flooded at our nod.
His humours while I cross'd them: O the life
I led him, and the dalliance and the wit,
The flattery and the strife,
My Hercules, my Roman Antony,
My mailed Bacchus leapt into my arms,
Contented there to die!
Sigh'd forth with life I had no further fear:
O what a little worm stole Cæsar's fame!
What else was left? look here!"
The polish'd argent of her breast to sight
Laid bare. Thereto she pointed with a laugh,
Showing the aspick's bite.)
Me lying dead, my crown about my brows,
A name for ever!—lying robed and crown'd,
Worthy a Roman spouse."
Struck by all passion, did fall down and glance
From tone to tone, and glided thro' all change
Of liveliest utterance.
Because with sudden motion from the ground
She raised her piercing orbs, and fill'd with light
The interval of sound.
As once they drew into two burning rings
All beams of Love, melting the mighty hearts
Of captains and of kings.
A noise of some one coming thro' the lawn,
And singing clearer than the crested bird,
That claps his wings at dawn.
From craggy hollows pouring, late and soon,
Sound all night long, in falling thro' the dell,
Far-heard beneath the moon.
Floods all the deep-blue gloom with beams divine:
All night the splinter'd crags that wall the dell
With spires of silver shine."
The lawn by some cathedral, thro' the door
Hearing the holy organ rolling waves
Of sound on roof and floor
To where he stands,—so stood I, when that flow
Of music left the lips of her that died
To save her father's vow;
A maiden pure; as when she went along
From Mizpeh's tower'd gate with welcome light,
With timbrel and with song.
With that wild oath." She render'd answer high:
"Not so, nor once alone; a thousand times
I would be born and die.
Creeps to the garden water-pipes beneath,
Feeding the flower; but ere my flower to fruit
Changed, I was ripe for death.
Me from my bliss of life, that Nature gave,
Lower'd softly with a threefold chord of love
Down to a silent grave.
Shall smile away my maiden blame among
The Hebrew mothers'—emptied of all joy,
Leaving the dance and song,
Leaving the promise of my bridal bower,
The valleys of grape-loaded vines that glow
Beneath the battled tower.
We heard the lion roaring in his den;
We saw the large white stars rise one by one,
Or, from the darken'd glen,
And thunder on the everlasting hills.
I heard Him, for He spake, and grief became
A solemn scorn of ills.
Strength came to me that equall'd my desire.
How beautiful a thing it was to die
For God and for my sire!
That I subdued me to my father's will;
Because the kiss he gave me, ere I fell,
Sweetens the spirit still.
Hew'd Ammon, hip and thigh, from Aroer
On Arnon unto Minneth." Here her face
Glow'd, as I look'd at her.
"Glory to God," she sang, and past afar,
Thridding the sombre boskage of the wood,
Toward the morning-star.
As one that from a casement leans his head,
When midnight bells cease ringing suddenly,
And the old year is dead.
Murmur'd beside me: "Turn and look on me:
I am that Rosamond, whom men call fair,
If what I was I be.
O me! that I should ever see the light!
Those dragon eyes of anger'd Eleanor
Do hunt me, day and night."
To whom the Egyptian: "O, you tamely died!
You should have clung to Fulvia's waist, and thrust
The dagger thro' her side."
Stol'n to my brain, dissolved the mystery
Of folded sleep. The captain of my dreams
Ruled in the eastern sky.
Ere I saw her, who clasp'd in her last trance
Her murder'd father's head, or Joan of Arc,
A light of ancient France;
Who kneeling, with one arm about her king,
Drew forth the poison with her balmy breath,
Sweet as new buds in Spring.
Gold-mines of thought to lift the hidden ore
That glimpses, moving up, than I from sleep
To gather and tell o'er
Compass'd, how eagerly I sought to strike
Into that wondrous track of dreams again!
But no two dreams are like.
Desiring what is mingled with past years,
In yearnings that can never be exprest
By signs or groans or tears;
Failing to give the bitter of the sweet,
Wither beneath the palate, and the heart
Faints, faded by its heat.